Women's History Month: A Tribute to Jean Wade Rindlaub
“[Advertising is] a bridge between people who make things and people who need things.”
One long and happy marriage, two kids, dozens of awards, and one big fracture in the proverbial glass ceiling–these are just a few stats that contribute to the embodiment of the remarkable figure, Jean Wade Rindlaub.
Helen Jean Wade, Jean to most, and “me” in letters to her daughter was a market research and advertising innovator. She was educated at home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by her father, Robert Mifflin Wade, who ran the Pennsylvania Business and Shorthand College alongside his brothers. Jean could type 50 words per minute and had mastered shorthand by the time she was 11, setting her on the path to a successful career as a secretary. As a teenager, she taught typing and shorthand at her father’s business school. Her first official job as a young woman was working as a secretary for the advertising manager of the local Armstrong Cork Company. Jean’s knack for language led her to a role as a copywriter shortly after she began working with the company.
She moved to New York City in 1930. There’s some debate as to whether she moved there to marry Willard W. Rindlaub, a technical staff worker at Bell Telephone Company, or to begin working at Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO) since the latter happened within two weeks of the wedding. Apparently, Jean had moxie. Imagine: it’s 1930, and she lands a job at a prestigious advertising firm within a couple weeks of getting married! Her colleagues and contemporaries said she was affable, outgoing, and savvy.
Long before Mad Men unveiled the 60s-era Peggy Olson character, Jean and other advertising pioneers helped develop and revolutionize the emerging field of advertising decades prior. Jean primarily worked on market research and advertising that tapped her expertise on the “woman’s viewpoint” during her 33-year career at BBDO. She worked on over 50 accounts in the areas of food (including convenience foods and kitchen equipment), cosmetics, clothing, furnishings, and other products targeting women. She conducted extensive market research delving into the female psyche that identified women’s needs and products that improved efficiency in their lives for high-profile clients such as General Mills, United Fruit Company, Campbell Soup, and Carter’s clothing.
One of the first campaigns she worked on that garnered wide acclaim, “Back Home for Keeps,” promoted Oneida silverware during the second World War. The advertisements featured illustrations of couples in the blush of love, reunited after the war. A symbol of hope, soldiers abroad even used them as pin-up posters.
After the war, she founded BBDO’s first test kitchen to develop new recipes and products. She also organized about 400 women into sounding boards for products, brand names, packaging, and advertising-forerunners of today’s market research panels.
General Mills benefited under Jean’s guidance from the late-40s through 1962. Betty Crocker cake mixes became the leader in the cake mix market after lagging behind Pillsbury and Duncan Hines. The advertisements behind this surge featured big, colorful images of delicious cakes, recipes, and sometimes happy kids-along with Betty Crocker’s pledge: “I guarantee you a perfect cake, every time you bake, cake after cake, after cake.”
Jean retired in 1963, but that didn’t slow her down. She was a market research consultant post-retirement and became increasingly active in the community and contributed to a plethora of organizations and causes. Appointed under Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller to the New York State Council of Women, she was the principal author of a report, “New York Women and Their Changing World.” She participated in White House Conferences on Nutrition held by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon and was a delegate to a White House Conference on Aging. In fact, she was even named citizen of the year in 1981.
Jean passed away at the age of 87 due to complications from a stroke. Her lauded career led to many distinctions and awards. Learn more about her extraordinary journey on her member page of The Advertising Hall of Fame. You can also see and hear Jean and those who knew her best tell her story in their own words here.
We, as women, in this wild and wonderful world of advertising and market research, regardless of our position, owe a great debt to Jean Wade Rindlaub and the many other women who have paved the path we pursue.